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General speaks on Elmendorf's, Air Force's future

by Senior Airman Jared Marquis
3rd Wing Public Affairs

2/28/2007 - ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFNEWS) -- The Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, visited here Feb. 21 to 23 to discuss the capabilities Alaska provides to the service, recapitalization, joint initiatives and the arrival of the C-17 Globemaster IIIs and F-22 Raptor.

Although he is no longer stationed in Alaska, Lt. Gen. Carrol H. Chandler is still in a position to oversee Alaska's future, as well as the Air Force's.

General Chandler said there are several reasons why Elmendorf is the base of choice for the C-17 and F-22, both of which will arrive later this year. The first advantage Alaska offers is its location.

"First and foremost, you hear a lot of people talk about the geographic location and the ability to transit to the Pacific or transit over the pole to Europe in fairly short order," General Chandler said. "Whether it be C-17s hauling Army equipment or F-22s being drug by tankers out of Eielson, there is a lot of capability in Alaska."

The general added that the availability of bases and training opportunities also make Alaska an attractive choice for advanced weapons systems.

"We have the bases available, which is important, and you've got the airspace. Not just the training ranges themselves, but the ability to get back and forth to the ranges using high altitude or low altitude routes. So Alaska offers a lot of opportunity for those systems to train here," he said.

One of those opportunities is Red Flag Alaska, the general said.

"By combining the attributes of the PARC (Pacific Alaska Range Complex) along with the attributes of Red Flag in Nevada, then we have a full-spectrum of training capabilities all the way from desert warfare to mountain warfare. If you've trained on both those ranges, you have trained on just about any geography you're going to see on the globe."

These systems are extremely important not only to the Air Force, but the country. He said one of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley's major goals is to modernize and recapitalize the force, he said.

"When I came on active duty, the average age of the aircraft in the Air Force was about eight years; today it's about 24 years. Even if we buy everything we are supposed to buy over the next five years, we are not going to decrease that age, we are only going to slow down that aging process to an average of about 26 years old," the general said.

By doing this, we keep the Air Force an important part of the Department of Defense, he said.

"We are in the middle of a huge recapitalization and modernization program because it is important to the nation, because it's important to have an Air Force that is relevant to what we contribute to national defense," General Chandler said. "So it's not just good for the Air Force, its good for the nation."

Another important issue to the future of the Air Force and Alaska is Total Force Integration.

"Elmendorf and Fort Richardson are prime locations for the joint-basing construct," General Chandler said. "Any time you have facilities this close together, there are efficiencies to be gained by sharing some of the basic things that we do."

"It's important for us in the Air Force, and the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force have said, we are not going to lower our standards as we do that," General Chandler said. 

"Our people have an expectation of a standard of living and a quality of life and a quality of work environment and we want to continue to improve that as we work on gaining those efficiencies," he said. 

There have been a number of hurdles, such as Air Force or Army regulations, that have prevented joint basing in the past. But both services will continue to work through those hurdles.

"There is no doubt in my mind in this day of tight budgets that it is going to be important to gain whatever efficiencies we can, and joint basing is one way to do that," General Chandler said.

In his job as deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, General Chandler is in a unique position to see the road ahead, and he is excited, not only for the Air Force, but also for those who are going to be around to see the changes.

"As we continue to reduce the force, and as we continue to fight the global war on terror and modernize and recapitalize our force, there are a lot of exciting things on the horizon. I am envious of the young men and women that are coming into the Air Force today with the opportunities they are going to have."

He said one of the primary focuses for the long term is the war on terrorism.

"As far as we can see into the future, we are going to be fighting the global war on terror. I think we all need to understand that. As a result of that, you will see us become more expeditionary in the Air Force. You will see an emphasis on the combat Airman skills that you started to see in basic training and which will continue throughout a person's career."

He added that the Air Force will continue to modernize and recapitalize the force as we introduce exciting assets, both manned and unmanned. Specifically, he mentioned the F-22, F-35 and a new tanker, which should be selected soon, and a next generation bomber planned for sometime around 2018.

But even as the service modernizes its equipment, the Air Force will continue to take care of its people he said.

"It's an exciting time in the Air Force as we continue to work toward getting smaller and capitalizing the force," he said. 

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